Published On: Thu, Mar 8th, 2018

Predicting where the top 10 offensive free agents will sign

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Predicting where the money will flow for the top 10 offensive players set to hit the open market March 14.

Kirk Cousins

2017 Stats: 4,093 passing yards, 27 TDs, 13 INTs
Age: 29
Potential suitors: Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, Vikings

The final four suitors for the most prized free agent since Peyton Manning are reportedly set, and each one has a realistic shot at winning the Cousins sweepstakes.

However, while the Broncos and the Cardinals can offer stability and strong leadership, their talented rosters are arguably declining. The Jets have the money, but Cousins said he’ll prioritize finding a place he can win.

That leaves the Vikings, fresh off an NFC Championship Game appearance. Minnesota has an offense stocked with the talent to maximize Cousins’ skill set, an elite young defense, and more than enough money to make the quarterback the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Prediction: Vikings on a 5-year, $150-million contract

Case Keenum

2017 Stats: 3,547 passing yards, 22 TDs, 7 INTs
Age: 30
Potential suitors: Vikings, Broncos, Jets, Bills

If Cousins lands in Minnesota, Keenum will need to find a new home despite his breakout 2017 campaign. Still, in a market that’s always hungry for even decent quarterbacks, the former journeyman should have plenty of options.

The losers of the Cousins race – the Broncos, Cardinals, and Jets – all make sense. However, Denver and John Elway are the most desperate to turn around their fortunes and can’t enter another season with questions under center.

After he earned $2 million in 2017, the Broncos set up Keenum for life.

Prediction: Broncos on a 3-year, $63-million contract

Drew Brees

2017 Stats: 4,334 passing yards, 23 TDs, 8 INTs
Age: 39
Potential suitors: Saints

Barring some unforeseen and dramatic development, Brees isn’t going anywhere.

It previously seemed possible that the quarterback would evaluate his options this offseason, still possessing only one Super Bowl ring at age 39. However, the New Orleans Saints’ bounce-back 2017 season should be more than enough to convince the future Hall of Famer that it’s the best place for him to win.

Brees will continue to go year to year, which should suit New Orleans just fine. The veteran passer might not be the main cog of the Saints’ offense the way he was in his prime, but he deserves to remain among the league’s top-paid signal-callers.

Prediction: Saints on a 2-year, $54-million contract

Allen Robinson

2017 Stats: 1 catch, 17 yards (torn ACL in Week 1)
Age: 24
Potential suitors: 49ers, Colts, Jaguars, Ravens, Panthers, Bears

Robinson isn’t hitting the open market at an ideal time after tearing his ACL on his very first catch of the 2017 season, but the wideout is still in line for a massive payday. He shouldn’t be short of suitors. Pass-catchers with his speed-size-strength combination don’t often make it to free agency.

Inspired by Alshon Jeffery, Robinson opts against a long-term deal that might not quite reflect his true worth, instead signing a big one-year contract with the 49ers. San Francisco needs a true No. 1 option for Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kyle Shanahan is the perfect man to rebuild Robinson’s standing among the league’s top receivers.

Prediction: 49ers on a 1-year, $15-million contract

Andrew Norwell

2017 Stats: 1 sack allowed, 0 holds, 0 false-start penalties (16 games)
Age: 26
Potential suitors: Giants, Panthers, Colts, Bears

A former undrafted free agent, Norwell has quickly risen to become one of the league’s best guards – especially in the passing game, where he’s dominant. The Panthers would ideally like to re-sign him, but after extending Trai Turner and signing Matt Kalil, tying up so much money in the offensive line is untenable.

Lots of NFL teams need offensive-line help, but the Giants are desperate to improve Eli Manning’s protection and new general manager Dave Gettleman brought Norwell to Carolina. The connection simply makes too much sense.

Prediction: Giants on a 5-year, $62.5-million contract

Sammy Watkins

2017 Stats: 39 catches, 593 yards, 8 TDs
Age: 24
Potential suitors: Jets, Redskins, Rams, Jaguars, Panthers

Watkins, like fellow wideout Robinson, isn’t exactly becoming a free agent at the height of his value. The former first-round pick has just over 1,000 receiving yards in his last 23 games and struggled to make an impact in the high-flying Rams offense – a worrying sign.

However, Watkins is still brimming with potential, and due to his lengthy injury history, would likely prefer a long-term contract with a lesser salary. New York has a decent stable of receivers led by Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse, but is dire need of more explosive weapons, and possesses the cap room to make a top-tier offer to Watkins.

Prediction: Jets on a 4-year, $40-million contract

Teddy Bridgewater

2017 Stats: 2 attempts, 1 INT (appeared in 1 game)
Age: 25
Potential suitors: Vikings, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins

Bridgewater’s market is among the hardest to predict. Will teams have enough confidence in his health to make him a starter following his devastating 2016 knee injury, or will he be forced to work his way back to a No. 1 gig from a backup role?

The former second-round pick will likely have to wait until the likes of Cousins and Keenum find their new homes. If the Jets miss on both, they’ll bring in Bridgewater on an incentivized deal that allows him to fight it out with whichever rookie quarterback New York lands in the draft.

Prediction: Jets on an incentivized 1-year, $8-million contract

Jimmy Graham

2017 Stats: 57 catches, 520 yards, 10 TDs
Age: 31
Potential suitors: Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks, Packers, Rams

Graham isn’t the scary weapon he once was, but the Seahawks arguably often misused the star tight end, forcing him out of his best role as a deep threat.

While the Jaguars have one of the strongest overall rosters in the league, tight end is a significant weakness. Jacksonville doesn’t have the cap space to make the big-money additions it did last season, but they can give Blake Bortles a reliable downfield threat and red-zone target by inking Graham to a solid contract.

Prediction: Jaguars on a 3-year, $21-million contract

Sam Bradford

2017 Stats: 382 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs (started 2 games)
Age: 30
Potential suitors: Browns, Broncos, Jets, Cardinals, Bills

Bradford remains a big question mark after looking dominant during Week 1 of last season, then missing most of the rest of the campaign due to a lingering knee injury.

Knee issues have plagued the former No. 1 overall pick throughout his career, and with a bevy of other options at quarterback – both in free agency and the draft – Bradford’s options may be limited. Cleveland’s a natural fit if the Browns intend to take a quarterback high in the draft, but want to give the rookie time to develop behind a veteran.

Prediction: Browns on a 1-year, $21-million contract

Carlos Hyde

2017 Stats: 938 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 350 receiving yards
Age: 27
Potential suitors: Panthers, 49ers, Colts, Jets, Seahawks

Hyde has teased solid potential in his four years in San Francisco, but he’s never been a natural fit for the 49ers’ offense and has often been hampered by injuries.

At 27, it’s unlikely Hyde develops into a star, but teams will probably view him as a strong short-term solution with a decent amount of untapped production. The Colts have a massive hole in the backfield with Frank Gore set for free agency, and even if Indy drafts a rookie running back, it’d be smart to pair them with a veteran like Hyde.

Prediction: Colts on a 4-year, $23-million contract

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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